Transparency and Trust Critical for Strong Community Relationships
Being socially responsible goes beyond protecting the company ’ s people . It also means engaging and being transparent with local communities and others affected by mining operations , including nearby residents and Indigenous peoples such as Native American tribes in the United States .
What it really comes down to in many cases is simply being a good neighbor , said John Clay , Tailings Dam Operator 1 at Sierrita .
John Clay , Tailings Dam Operator 1 , spends his days keeping the dust down at the Sierrita mine , work that is all part of being a good neighbor .
Clay spends his workdays helping the company fulfill its social commitments by doing what he can to make sure the mine ’ s neighbors do not have to put up with excessive dust blowing off the tailings or roads . He is on a constant hunt for dried out areas to spray with water or “ gorilla snot ,” a chemical compound that binds dust particles so they do not get kicked up by the wind .
“ Having no dust , that ’ s what we consider a success , and we talk about that every day ,” he said .
Keeping the dust under control is particularly important in Sierrita , located about 30 miles from Tucson . The site ’ s nearest neighbor is only a quarter mile away , said Marc Ochoa , Senior Supervisor-Tailings .
Dust suppression is important to maintaining community support needed for the mine ’ s long-term success .
“ It ’ s more than just doing the right thing and taking pride in our company ,” Ochoa said . “ We have the responsibility as stewards of the environment and good neighbors to make sure we ’ re doing the right thing .”
‘ JUST GOOD BUSINESS ’
Laura Phelps , Manager-Strategic Community Development , faces a similar situation at Chino and Tyrone , the two mines that operate near Silver City , N . M . Mining remains the dominant economic driver in the area . Silver City also is a popular tourism and retirement destination and has particularly active community groups .
At Tyrone , the company is seeking permits to begin mining in a new area of the operation ’ s footprint , and community input is part of that process . The company ’ s community outreach and engagement process has been ongoing for more than two years . Being open and transparent is essential to building community trust , especially among those who do not come from mining backgrounds , Phelps said . That is an important responsible production principle and the best way to do business , she said .
“ Doing the right thing is always the best business practice ,” Phelps said . “ This is who we are at Freeport . We take care of our people , and , by virtue of that , we take care of our families and our neighbors and our community . That ’ s just good business .”
Trust and transparency also are essential in relations with Native American communities like the San Carlos Apache Tribe nestled between company sites in Miami , Safford and Morenci , said Tanayia White , Lead Native American Affairs Specialist based in Safford .
Trust , transparency and respect create a true relationship between the company and Native American communities near mine sites , said Tanayia White , Lead Native American Affairs Specialist .
Engagement with Indigenous communities is a priority for the company . In North America , that involves building relationships with Native American tribes , especially those near mining operations .
Company executives and site leaders meet regularly with tribal officials to discuss issues like environmental stewardship , water quality and availability , employment of tribal members , and opportunities for Native-owned businesses .
Of particular concern is protecting cultural and archaeological resources on or near mine sites . For example , the Safford operation last year recovered several buckets of turquoise , considered a sacred stone by the Apaches , and donated it to the San Carlos Apache Tribe . Additionally , several operations regularly invite members from various tribes onto company-owned land to harvest culturally significant plants such as agaves , a historical staple used in diet and ceremonies .
The goal is to do more than seek support only when needed from the tribes – such as when permits are required – but to build a long-term relationship of trust and transparency , White said . By dealing openly and honestly over the long term and working together to respect and preserve cultural heritage and resources , the relationship is not simply transactional .
“ The basis of all of this is really simple ; it ’ s respect ,” White said . “ A close counterpart to that is transparency . It ’ s not just that it ’ s the right thing to do , it ’ s the responsible thing to do . If we develop relationships first and there is trust established as part of those conversations , the business that has to occur afterward should occur as just a natural part of that relationship .”